N.M. Attorney: Forced anal probing is illegal

Friday, November 8, 2013 - 10:37pm

New Mexico drivers report law enforcement ordered forced anal probes after minor traffic stops

In less than 2 weeks, a third person has accused law enforcement officials of conducting illegal and invasive anal probes after being pulled over by officers.

Timothy Young says he was pulled over by Deming, New Mexico Police for failing to use his blinker.

He says a K-9 then alerted police that Young had drugs on him. Police thought he was hiding those drugs in his rectum but after they forced him to undergo an anal probe and an x-ray scan, nothing was found. 

Another Deming man says the same thing happened to him.

In El Paso, a New Mexico woman claims she was returning from a visit to Juarez last December when she was subjected to anal exams, enemas, and colonoscopies, after a drug dog alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers that she had drugs on her.

The procedures were done without the woman's consent and no drugs were found. She is now filing a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico.

Legal experts say these are examples of law enforcement going too far.

Shannon Kennedy, an Albuquerque attorney representing the two New Mexico men, says forced physical exams are not only humiliating and intrusive, they're illegal and unconstitutional.

"It violates both the 4th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution," said Kennedy.

"Simply because somebody suspects, a law enforcement officer suspects, that you may be carrying contraband, may have packaged drugs, really shouldn't give them the right to engage in procedures that under any other circumstance would be considered sexual assault," said Laura Schaur Ives, a legal expert with the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico.

Kennedy also says police can't keep a person in custody, at a hospital in this case, for long periods of time if they don't have enough proof that the person is committing a crime.

"The furthest that law enforcement goes typically is an X-ray," she said.

Kennedy says drug-sniffing dogs are often unreliable.

She says her clients were stopped by the same two police officers and sniffed by the same dog, who Kennedy says isn't even certified.

What's worse, argues Kennedy, is law enforcement can lie about whether their dog has even sniffed drugs on someone or not.

"These abuses definitely are taking place in a context of a police department that's out of control," she said. 

According to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board, a person who feels violated by a police officer can file a complaint for officer misconduct and an investigation would then begin.

The accused officer would then have two weeks to respond to the Board and explain his or her actions.

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